Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

July Books 3) The Bloody Sunday Report, Volume II

This second volume is mercifully shorter than the first, a mere 348 numbered pages. It takes us right up to the point where Support Company have been deployed into the Bogside, contrary to the orders given to Colonel Wilford; and incidentally exposes his and his superior officers' "inaccurate and misleading information" on precisely what those orders were.

Chapters 10 and 11 are fairly brief geographical introductions, with lots of maps which did not survive transfer to my Blackberry so I read them online.

Chapter 12 starts off in much the same way, with detailed descriptions and maps showing where various bits of the army were stationed on 30 January. It then diverts into a somewhat prolonged discussion of the question of at what stage in the afternoon Colonel Wilford decided not to send soldiers in across a wall beside a Presbyterian church, but instead through one of the army's barriers; the Inquiry goes to some lengths to establish that this was a last-minute decision, despite Wilford's own testimony to the contrary. It becomes clear in Chapter 20 that this is to establish the clear fact that Wilford had not sought approval to deploy in that way, and could not have sought approval largely because he had not thought of it as early in the afternoon as he later claimed to have done.

Chapters 13 and 14 deal with the organisation and early stages of the march from the organisers' point of view. There were about 250 stewards for about 10-15,000 people; I don't know, and the tribunal doesn't express a view, as to whether that is too few, enough, or too many. The stewards were organised by a member of the Official IRA; the flatbed truck at the head of the march was being driven by a Provo. It hardly matters anyway. The organisers (who were not themselves in either branch of the IRA) decided at a fairly late stage to march to Free Derry Corner rather than continue the original plan to end at Guildhall Square when it became clear that the security forces were serious about blocking the route.

This decision was not communicated to everyone on the march, and Chapter 15 deals with the riot that ensued at Barrier 14, where the route change took effect. This is of course also a crucial location for the fatal shootings that took place within the following hour, but Saville is pretty clear that the riot was basically over before the shooting started, and that it was handled appropriately by the security forces, despite evidence to the contrary from a surprising source:
15.35 It was suggested to us by Rifleman 160, a member of A Company 2 RGJ who was present at Barrier 14, that he and other members of his company fired baton rounds in a wild and indiscriminate fashion during the disturbances considered above. We are not persuaded that this was the case, as it is not supported by the photographic, film and eyewitness evidence considered above, or indeed by Rifleman 160’s 1972 evidence.
Chapter 16 deals with other riots in the neighbourhood, criticising the soldiers at Barriers 12 and 13 for using CS gas when it was no worse a situation than at Barrier 14, and in the other direction considering that the rioting at Barrier 15 was not as bad and at Barrier 16 hardly even riotous.

Chapter 17 looks at the occupation of the derelict Abbey Taxis building by the Paras' Machine Gun Platoon, and the rioting that ensued when they were spotted. Once again we have the weird situation of Saville finding soldiers to have exaggerated the extent to which they was trigger-happy with the firing of rubber bullets. This is actually rather a good bit of analysis, so I quote four paragraphs in full (trimming footnotes):
17.21 According to Lance Corporal INQ 588’s written evidence to this Inquiry, he fired 20–30 baton rounds while he was in Abbey Taxis. According to Private 112’s evidence to this Inquiry, he fired 8–10 baton rounds from his position on a roof next to the Presbyterian church.

17.22 In our view, it is highly unlikely that Lance Corporal INQ 588 fired as many baton rounds as he now recalls. Even if he fired as quickly as he could, this number would have taken some time to discharge, it is doubtful that he would have been able to carry so many, and other members of Machine Gun Platoon make no reference to such a level of firing. We are also not persuaded, in view of Major Loden’s Diary of Operations, and the civilian evidence discussed below, that Private 112’s recollection of firing as many as 8–10 rounds is correct.

17.23 A number of civilians gave estimates as to how many baton rounds they recalled being fired in this area at this time. In assessing this evidence, it must be borne in mind, as noted above, that the march was in some disarray and the situation very fluid, with marchers and rioters moving between locations, some affected by the CS gas being discharged at Barrier 12 and possibly Barrier 13. In addition, differing levels of violence were directed at three different locations (namely the GPO roof, the side of the Presbyterian church and Abbey Taxis) at different times, while baton rounds were also being fired at about the same time from Barriers 12, 14 and possibly 13.

17.24 In such circumstances, it is not surprising that estimates vary, with some given long after the event. However, the overall impression that we gained from this evidence, was that only a few baton rounds were fired in the area under discussion. For example, in his NICRA statement, Padraig O’Mianain recorded that he was aware of three rubber bullets being fired. Patricia McGowan told this Inquiry that she was aware of “just a couple” being fired. Michael McGuinness told the Sunday Times that “a few” were fired, at least one from Abbey Taxis. James Wilson told NICRA that he heard one being fired, but in his evidence to us recalled that four or five had been fired. Patrick McCourt told this Inquiry that the soldiers in Abbey Taxis fired “one or two” rubber bullets at rioters. To our minds this evidence tends to support the number given by Major Loden in his 1972 evidence.
I suspect it won't play much further part in the inquiry's findings, which now turn to far more grievous questions, but it is interesting that Saville concludes that three out of three soldiers who fired rubber bullets drastically exaggerated how many they had fired.

This all matters because of what happened in the few seconds described in Chapter 18, the first actual firing and injuries on the day. At 66 pages, this is the second longest chapter in the 348 numbered pages of Volume 2. Perhaps we see now a bit more clearly why Saville established his analytical techniques from the outset; he ends up disagreeing with Damien Donaghey (the surviving victim) and also with Corporal A and Private B, who certainly fired the shots that injured Donaghey and John Johnston, who died of unrelated causes several months later having made a full recovery from his gunshot wounds, but whose evidence, given almost four decades ago, is found to be more reliable than any of the three living principals in the incident. Basically Saville's finding is that the soldiers fired on Donaghey, then aged 15, at around 1355 because they thought, incorrectly, that he was about to throw a nail-bomb (though he had certainly been throwing stones); four or five shots were fired, of which only one or two hit anyone.

Chapter 19 looks at the other shootings that may or may not have taken place in the William Street area at about the same time. It's pretty clear that an Official IRA sniper had a go at the soldiers cutting wire on top of a wall beside the nearby Presbyterian church, hitting a drainpipe (though striking how far off the mark the sniper's own account is). This appears to have been the only shot fired by either branch of the IRA that day, and the Provisionals disarmed the Official sniper as soon as they realised what he had done. There are confused indications that one or two other shots may have been fired, but it is not clear that anyone much noticed at the time. The significance of the drainpipe shot is that the Paras now perceived themselves as under armed attack, which certainly framed their perception of the next events.

Chapter 20 backtracks a bit by looking at the precise orders passing between Brigadier McLellan and Colonel Steele, at headquarters in Ebrington, and Colonel Wiford on the ground. This is one of the most grimly fascinating chapters (and at 92 pages is the longest in this volume). Basically, the testimony given by the three officers to both Widgery and Saville cannot be reconciled with the actual written record of orders given on the day - both those recorded at second hand in the logbooks at either end of the radio link, or the transcriptions made by a local man who was listening in and recording the army's radio communications (his tapes, unfortunately, were destroyed long ago). The army officers attempted to argue that Wilford's decision to deploy Support Company in the first place, and his decision to send them down Rossville Street after the rioters, was totally in line with the orders he was given, when in fact the evidence is completely clear that he was explicitly ordered to send in only one company rather than three and not to go much farther than William Street. One further bit of evidence which damns Wilford, though not the other two, is that because he did not pass on to his men the prohibition on chasing rioters down Rossville Street, that is precisely what they thought, according to what they told Saville, that they had been ordered to do.

Saville doesn't waste a lot of time in condemning the tissue of lies woven by the three senior officers to attempt to conceal what actually happened; he concludes sharply:
20.278 In our view... Colonel Wilford was at fault. He failed to obey the Brigadier’s order by deploying Support Company as he did; he failed to pass on to his soldiers the injunction against conducting a running battle (ie chasing the crowd) down Rossville Street; and he failed to give his soldiers instructions that their task was to seek to arrest rioters rather than to disperse the crowd. What we consider he should have done was to inform Brigade that his original request had been overtaken by events and (assuming that his intention was still to arrest rioters rather than to chase the crowd away) that in his view the only opportunity to make any significant number of arrests was now to send his soldiers down Rossville Street in vehicles. Had he done so, it seems to us that Brigadier MacLellan might well have called off the arrest operation altogether, on the grounds that this deployment would not have provided sufficient separation between rioters and civil rights marchers.

20.279 The failure of Colonel Wilford to comply with the orders from Brigade meant that soldiers of Support Company did chase people down Rossville Street and into the Bogside.

20.280 In the following parts of this report we discuss in detail what then happened...
In other words, the worst is yet to come.

Chapter 21, ending Volume II, is a two-page reminder of the geographical approach taken by Saville and his colleagues to the report.

I commented in my write-up of Volume I that I felt McLellan was given too easy a time by Saville, that he should have been clearer with Wilford about the orders. My opinion of McLellan's actions has been changed both for better and for worse. For better, in that he was not to know that he was being given incomplete and inaccurate information by Wilford on the day, which as Saville speculates might well have led him to call off the operation had he had the complete picture. But for the worse, in that his story afterwards was clearly constructed to protect the army and obscure the truth.

Wilford's responsibility is clear. He failed to communicate adequately either with his superiors or with his own troops, in the hopes of staging a spectaularly successful arrest operation in the Bogside to show the softies who normally patrolled Derry how it should be done, and as a direct result 14 people died.

I have been informed, by someone who has actually seen them, that Saville commissioned a number of animated three-dimensional reconstructions of events on Bloody Sunday, which are circulating among privileged circles on DVD. I hope that these too will be published for the sake of transparency.

Volume I | Volume II | Volume III | Volume IV | Volume V | Volume VI | Volume VII | Volume VIII | Volume IX | Volume X and conclusions
Tags: bloody sunday, bookblog 2010, world: northern ireland

  • Whoniversaries 2 March

    i) Births and deaths 2 March 1935: birth of Stephen Thorne, who played Azal in The D&ealig;mons (Third Doctor, 1971), Omega in The Three…

  • Whoniversaries 1 March

    i) births and deaths 1 March 1918: birth of Roger Delgado, the first Master (1971-73). 1 March 1926: birth of Barbara Clegg, author of…

  • Whoniversaries 28, 29 and 30 February

    i) births and deaths 28 February 1912: birth of Mervyn Pinfield, who was Associate Producer for Doctor Who from An Unearthly Child (1963) to The…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 1 comment